Avalanche dominates Coyotes but required overtime goal in 2-1 triumph
The return of star center Nathan MacKinnon on Wednesday seemed to give the injury-riddled Avalanche dynamic energy. In another fan-free and fake-noise environment at Ball Arena, Colorado produced 27 of the first 32 shots in making the Arizona Coyotes look like its B team.
After two periods, MacKinnon and his two wingers, Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, had 15 shots — six more than the Coyotes produced as a team.
The Avs, however, continued to struggle with the name of the game — scoring goals. They mustered just one on 44 shots through regulation and required a Landeskog overtime goal to collect the much-deserved two points.
Landeskog beat goalie Antti Raanta with a high wrist shot with 38 remaining in OT for the Avs’ 2-1 victory.
The final shots count was 46-14, the largest shot differential (plus-32) in Avalanche history and of any NHL game this season.
“I’m impressed by the way we played tonight,” Landeskog said. “I thought we had really good jump and all four lines were rolling and creating offense and really taking care of things in the defensive zone. I liked a lot of our game. The power play (0-for-5) is one thing that wasn’t really clicking tonight. A little bit frustrated, obviously, and it’s hard not to get frustrated in a game like this. Going into the third, sometimes you feel like you should be up three or four goals but you look at the scoreboard and it’s tied. But Raanta had a good night. He was seeing everything. And they’re a competitive team.”
Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer was terrific when he had to be. He stopped Arizona’s most skilled forwards, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, on two third-period breakaways.
The game felt a lot like Monday’s opener against the Coyotes in the same building. Arizona was outshot 35-14 but found a way to win 3-2. MacKinnon was definitely a spark in the finale of the two-game set, playing in his 545th career game to surpass Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg for the ninth-most in an Avs jersey.
MacKinnon had a team-high seven shots through two periods as the Avs produced 31-of-40 to that point.
“He just gives you that spark,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of MacKinnon, who finished with a game-high 10 shots. “He’s got a pretty good mindset right now and he continues to drive plays for him and his linemates.”
Colorado (14-8-2) allowed less than 30 shots for the 14th consecutive game, tying the Stanley Cup-winning team of 2000-01 for the club record.
The Avalanche outshot the Coyotes 18-3 in the first period and 13-6 in the second. The visitors, who were being outshot 28-5 midway through the second period, tied it late in the middle frame when Schmaltz redirected a shot to the net from Tyler Pitlick. The goal came on Arizona’s ninth shot.
Colorado came out strong, producing three shots on the first shift of the game and second on their second. Brandon Saad took a pass from linemate Andre Burakovsky and beat Raanta with a wrist shot between the goalies’ legs.
“It doesn’t matter who well you’re playing. It’s about the result. I think we did a good job of sticking with it, not getting too frustrated, and getting the win,” Saad said.
The Avs stand 2-1-1 on their club-record, nine-game homestand. They next host the Los Angeles Kings for games Friday and Sunday at Ball Arena.
MacKinnon returned to the lineup a week after taking an illegal hit to the head from San Jose rookie forward Joachim Blicheld, who was suspended for two games. MacKinnon said he was unaware of Blicheld’s two-game suspension for the hit and didn’t have much of a comment about the play.
“I wasn’t paying attention. Obviously, it wasn’t a great hit. I think that’s fair,” MacKinnon said pregame. “I really wasn’t hurt that bad. I know he didn’t mean to and it was just an unfortunate play.”
Footnote. The Avs continued to play without seven injured players, including six who are normally in the lineup. Defensemen Cale Makar, Bo Byram and Conor Timmins each have upper-body injuries, as does forward J.T. Compher. Defensemen Erik Johnson (upper body) and goalie Pavel Francouz (lower body) are on long-term injured reserve.